“Fuck this ‘Don’t speak ill of the dead’ shit! People don’t become better when they ‘re dead, you just talk about them as if they are. But it’s not true! People are still assholes, they ‘re just dead assholes!”
Ok Lem, you are right, it doesn’t make any difference that you are dead now. So, yeah, you might have been an asshole at times, aren’t we all? It wouldn’t even make any difference, really. What is important, and rather funny, is that it seems that I knew you better than many people that I actually met in my life. And you know what is even funnier? It seems that you knew me better than many of them. It was your street ethics and your approach to what it means to be a human being that made you this cool uncle that I would run to for advice in crucial moments of my life, or just letting your wisdom accompanying my deeds, which I did by listening again and again to your songs and going through the lyrics. And you did look cool, actually cooler than anybody else in the music that I love and you made that seem effortless. Even when you were wearing your favourite Iron Cross or Nazi symbols in public, because you knew what context is and you didn’t give a shit about other’s people opinion on that. And because “it was obviously a joke”, a harmless vice. Not that you made a big deal out of it, despite the endless questions about it, or even more about your infamous alcohol and drugs abuse. “I don’t want to espouse anything to anybody. I’d say have your own experiences, but don’t come to me with the results, that’s all. … It’s your fucking life. Be responsible and do it properly.” You didn’t want to be the example for anything, especially not for that, in the same way you didn’t bent for anybody’s rules. And the only categories of people you were prejudiced against were “the record companies and the cops”. Fine by me, Lem.
Many people say that you were rock and roll itself, you used to hear that a lot when you were still around. I would say you were not only the embodiment of rock and roll, you were its personification. You were there before it, watching it while it was becoming, lived it through and played a big role in its formation by delivering the dirtiest version of it for the whole of your life, but also a large part of it died with you. Not the music and the legacy that will live forever, but the actual impact and influence of your physical presence, the attitude and the manners. You were a man and a rock and roller of a different time, one that we only read about. A noble road warrior, a cazanova, a conquistador, a pirate. I have read tons of your interviews, tributes written by people who knew you and saw any possible video with your persona, but I haven’t traced anything appalling, or something inhumane, something that would totally demystify you. You were tough and rough, but you were also a gentle giant, people who know you since the 60’s confirm that.
And it seemed that you always meant it. Whatever that was. You were more rock than anybody else in the Rockin’ Vicars, even darker and more hippy than the dark hippies in Hawkwind, more punk and more of an anarchist than all the punks that considered you an icon. And of course the meanest son of a bitch in Motörhead, the band with the meanest sons of bitches ever. You might not have been an easy case, but everybody says you were just and fair. And never losing your always sharp and inspired juvenile humour. Which was the other side of the coin for your deep sensitivity as this heart-breaking letter to the last one of the ‘three amigos’ still standing explains: “Thanks for the best and the worst and the deeply shared, Eddie. I know you think I treat everything as a joke, and I take the piss, but everyone survives the way that he can. I love you. You ‘re my family. God help us both!” I am pretty sure you would be severely touched if you could listen to what people around you had to say about their own “deeply shared” with you, especially that crazy roadie in your funeral ceremony who was crying in pride showing his backstage pass and explaining that he was getting the stage ready for you, just because it was you. You had been a roadie once for the greatest, you very well know what that means. Those are the kind of people I trust when it comes to your personality, your loyal.
So, please allow me now to try to explain what you meant for a plain fan through my own “deeply shared”.
Athens, Rodon Club 27th – 28th November 1998: When you started out Motörhead, you claimed that your music could make other people’s lawn die, but that night it made my hair under my nose and on my balls grow. Young and broke, I managed to find a free ticket for the first night, but I was so bewildered by what I experienced that there was no way I wouldn’t repeat it the next day. I took all the pocket money of the last couple of weeks that was saved to buy a record or two and went alone for the second day in a row seeking ticket for a sold out show to see you and the boys delivering while it was still the ‘old school’ days with breaking and enter, clash with the police, endless moshpits inside and the general sense of danger in the air. The way you left your bass by the amp at the end releasing the loudest feedback noise I have ever heard will always be the definite concert moment of my whole life.
Athens, Lycabettus Theater 23rd July 2002: By far the best setlist I have ever seen you and Motörhead playing, 20 songs, fucking “Dr. Rock”, “No Class” and “Shoot You In The Back”, your line: “Are there any punks in here?” before “God Save The Queen” and the joke you made about the pretentiousness of encores, you appearing without your shirt for the last songs, the riots after the concert. Just beautiful.
Athens, Alimos Beach, 5th July 2004: Motörhead on a fucking beach… Whoever knows the story behind this so called ‘festival’ knows also that when others wouldn’t come out and play, you and Motörhead kicked our asses like you always have, even though the organisation was a disaster, just because the fans were there and because the show must go on. Respect. And now that I think about it, I should have made it to the strip club people were calling to tell me that they saw you entering after the show.
London, Hammersmith Apollo, 28th November 2009: “No Sleep ‘till Hammersmith” was the first thing I ever heard from Motörhead and seeing you there was a young boy’s dream. That winter was the first one I started living abroad and I thought it was a great chance to see you and the band in your home ground, bought the tickets since August and even that early I could find only for the standing stalls. So, there I was outside the venue, about to watch Motörhead in fucking Hammersmith, trying to exchange my stalls ticket with an arena one amidst crazy scamming of selling and buying. And suddenly I am given a free ticket by a group of older Motörhead fans. “But I have one, I just want to exchange it”, “It’s ok, we got a spare and going in now, give it to the next one”. There was a girl with an ace of spades tattoo on her neck, holding a sign “Need Ticket” there, she can actually be seen in the “Lemmy The Movie” at some point. Well, she made it in, I can assure you about that.
Warsaw, Bemowo airport, 10th June 2011: Kilometres of traffic jam on our way from Berlin, detouring through the woods with a broken navigator and trying to get directions from drunken Polish villagers us speaking in Greek, English and German, them in Polish holding a map of Denmark, driving on the emergency lane faking illness almost having fights with truckdrivers, leaving the car on the pavement of a central road and running with our tickets in teeth just to be there for the last outbreak of “Overkill”. And the friend who came all the way from Athens for what it turned out to be 1,5 minute of a Motörhead concert saying: “Ok, I saw him, he is fine, that is enough”. We were your soldiers, Lemmy, marching off to war with you anytime.
Berlin, Columbiahalle, 28th November 2011: The smallest venue I have seen you and Motörhead playing abroad, around two thousand people, intimate and warm. “Whorehouse Blues” with you standing in the front and dancing while playing the harmonica. Blues orgasm, pure gold.
Berlin, Max Schmelling Halle, 11th December 2015: By that time it was no secret that your health was deteriorating fast. That night I had a bike accident a few hours before I came to the show. I could barely stand and moving like a cripple, so I thought ok, no party for me, I will just sit and watch. Yeah, right. Sirens, red lights and you shouting “Bomber”… Just like 17 years ago in Rodon, the last chapter of my live Motörhead book had the same intro as the first one. And I danced, just danced the whole night through almost crying at times when watching you having to hold on to the mic stand in between songs so we wouldn’t have to see your hands trembling. You could barely move, but you did give that Rickenbacker one last lesson with everything you had left. At the end, stuck in the first row I wanted to see you exit the stage, I was observing your every step and holding my hands high for everything you gave me through the years. And it was a lot Lemmy. I guess you knew as much as we did that this would be the last time. I can’t even imagine your thoughts and your feelings at that final applause, it is these words you once said that make it so difficult: “I can’t understand any other way of being alive than playing in a rock band all over the world.”
And this is what happened, right? You were done touring and since your body was not obeying your spirit to jump on the next tour, you decided to depart altogether for the biggest tour ever, along with your old comrades Phil and Würzel. You knew you were born to lose and that eventually you would be killed by death. But in the meanwhile, you lived to win and I will be forever grateful that I was there to witness you as a winner on stage from somewhere in the crowd. And you were so convincing that you made us feel like winners too and that is as important a gift to the world as your music.
You mustn’t shout it out loud,
Don’t create a scene,
Don’t indulge in bein’ proud
That only feeds the scheme,
Break down the wall,
They been up it’s their time to fall,
Anarchy is comin’ in,
‘Cause you know we’re livin’ to win
By the way, I am not forgetting what you said on your last tv interview about when to stop performing: “What, after death? No! I’ll have to stop then – I think. But you never know, I could haunt somewhere, mess up somebody else’s gig.”
Just in case… you are immortal.
No Class Nick